Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome – The Colosseum

When we came out of the church, we said to the coachman, “Go to the Colosseum.” In a quarter of an hour or so he stopped at the gate, and we went in.

It is no fiction, but plain, sober, honest truth, to say (so suggestive and distinct is it at this hour) that for a moment—actually in passing in they who will may have the whole great pile before them as it used to be, with thousands of eager faces staring down into the arena, and such a whirl of strife and dust going on there as no language can describe.

Its solitude, its awful beauty, and its utter desolation strike upon the stranger the next moment like a softened sorrow, and never in his life, perhaps, will he be so moved and overcome by any sight not immediately connected with his own affections and afflictions.

To see it crumbling there, an inch a year, its walls and arches overgrown with green, its corridors open to the day, the long grass growing in its porches, young trees of yesterday springing up on its ragged parapets and bearing fruit (chance produce of the seeds dropped there by the birds who build their nests within its chinks and crannies); to see its pit of fight filled up with earth, and the peaceful cross planted in the center; to climb into its upper halls and look down on ruin, ruin, ruin all about it, — the triumphal arches of Constantine, Septimius Severus, and Titus, the Roman Forum, the palace of the Caesars, the temples of the old religion, fallen down and gone, — is to see the ghost of old Rome, wicked, wonderful old city, haunting the very ground on which its people trod.

It is the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand, majestic, mournful sight conceivable. Never, in its bloodiest crime, can the sight of the gigantic Colosseum, full and running over with the lustiest life, have moved one heart as it must move all who look upon it now — a ruin. God be thanked —a ruin !

Abridged from ” Pictures from Italy ”

Colosseum(kol’o se’um).—Constantine (kon’stan tin).—arena (are na): the central part of Roman amphitheaters, in which the combats of gladiators or of wild beasts occurred. — arches of Constantine, Septimius Severus, Titus (ti’tus): great triumphal arches erected by the Roman emperors of these names, to celebrate their victories.